On the Cutting Edge

Credit union transitions to all IP video surveillance solution

Staying on top of a rapidly evolving technology, such as video surveillance, can be challenging. Despite knowing recent technologies are more powerful, efficient and effective at addressing risks, the logistics of making a transition can be complex, decision-making can take time and the required investment can be significant. However, some banks and credit unions take pride in being early adopters and are able to quickly embrace change.

Such is the case with Centris Federal Credit Union, a financial institution based in Omaha, Neb., with 11 branches serving Omaha and other communities across the state.

Centris had been using a hybrid NVR solution since 2006, long before the industry began transitioning from analog to IP and from NVRs to server-based platforms. When a new head office building was acquired three years later, Steve Edgerton, senior vice president of technology, and Blake Grooters, facilities manager, decided to test the waters with a server-based, VMS software solution and new IP cameras.

Moving to IP Video

Centris opted for a browser-based, VMS solution and IP cameras from March Networks, which they preferred over the cameras originally acquired with their head office.

Despite the different brands of surveillance technology deployed across Centris’ footprint, investigators are able to access and review video from any camera in the system through the common VMS user interface. This allows the credit union to transition to new technology over time, leverage prior investments in its NVRs and analog cameras, and not have to worry about the interoperability of different platforms.

The VMS eliminates the need to upgrade software on desktops throughout the credit union’s branch network, streamlines administration of user privileges and camera settings, and minimizes hardware failures as servers replace NVRs.

“At the same time, IP cameras provide Centris with a phenomenal improvement in picture quality,” Grooters said.

The VMS is facilitating the deployment of video surveillance at remote kiosks in grocery stores. Instead of installing a NVR or server at the location, Centris simply connects an IP camera to the corporate network, linking the kiosk to the main office.

“Going forward, the plan is to phase out the NVRs over time, put everything on the VMS and go exclusively with the new IP cameras,” Edgerton said.

In fact, subsequent remodeling projects at several branches offered an opportunity to transition to an all-IP system.

Mobile Access

A cloud-based, mobile application that works with the VMS will facilitate mobile access to video from tablets and smartphones. In the event of an emergency, authorized Centris staff will be able to go into the system, select a camera and view live video, even if they are on the road or in an off-site meeting.

“There are more and more tablets across the enterprise, so we’re looking forward to taking advantage of mobile access,” Edgerton said.

Video Surveillance as a Deterrent

Evidence from the video surveillance solution has been used on numerous occasions to document a variety of incidents, from robberies to cases of internal fraud, with some clips even airing on local TV news broadcasts. For the most part, however, the system functions as a deterrent.

“The first thing anyone sees when they come in the front door of one of our branches is a welcome [analog] monitor with their picture on it,” Edgerton said. “It lets them know right away that they are under surveillance, so if they’re coming in with anything other than innocent intentions, they’ll just turn around and walk right out. There have been several instances of this over the years.”

A single-channel encoder is used to convert digital video from the IP cameras for display on the analog monitor.

Combatting ATM Fraud

Centris’ strategy for combatting ATM fraud is mounting cameras in areas that are out of the reach of a potential fraudster. The cameras record the customer’s approach so that person can’t cover up the camera installed inside the ATM.

Several tools are available to the credit union to make sure their video surveillance system is up and running. For example, the NVR software reports on the health status of the ATM-mounted recorders, while the health checking capability of the VMS reports on any performance issues affecting the cameras.

At sites still equipped with NVRs, branch management logs on to each recorder first thing every morning to make sure their analog cameras are working properly. Centris’ IT department uses a network monitoring system that alerts staff to server and other issues.

“We have three large monitors in our technology services area that display alerts, color codes them and sends out text messages to whoever is on call, so we’re pretty well covered,” Grooters said.

Alarm Integration

Relying on Diebold Incorporated’s Omaha office for support and expertise, Centris recently took advantage of an alarm monitoring service that allows Diebold’s 24/7 monitoring center to access Centris’ video surveillance system for alarm verification.

“It’s a great service to have because if something happens in the middle of the night at a branch, we can go in and have a look around,” Diebold’s Lindsay Michalski said. “If it’s a false alarm, we don’t have to wake anybody up or bother the police.”

“I give a lot of credit to Centris for embracing innovation and the technological changes that we have seen in the video surveillance industry. Their system is state-of-the-art and a model that other financial institutions can certainly emulate,” concluded Michalski.

This article originally appeared in the September 2013 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Ali Mahmoud is a Product Manager with March Networks, a leading provider of IP video surveillance solutions to some of the world’s largest retail organizations.

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